With over one million members, staff, volunteers and supporters, the RSPB encompasses a wide range of views and people. It’s important to recognise the value of difference as well as better reflecting the communities in which we work. In this blog, the RSPB’s LGBTQIA+ group, the Starlings, reflect on this year’s Pride celebrations and why nature needs us all.
In previous years the RSPB Starlings have attended Pride events in London, Brighton, Birmingham, Glasgow and Perthshire. This year, whilst unable to physically participate due to Covid-19, they celebrated Global Pride 2020, an online event which brought together LGBTQIA+ communities from around the world.
The Starlings, are of course, named after the bird: for its colourful feathers, its varied song and its large gatherings.
The RSPB celebrates Pride to acknowledge the huge contribution of our LGBTQIA+ staff and supporters who care about nature. We recognise the LGBTQIA+ community within our members, staff, volunteers and supporters, and are determined that no-one should experience any prejudice, but instead should be celebrated for their contribution to the organisation.
The RSPB also attends Pride in solidarity with members of the LGBTQIA+ community in 33 of our Birdlife Partner countries, where it is still illegal to be gay, and where people live in fear of persecution and discrimination just because of who they are.
A member of the RSPB Starlings said, “Since starting at the RSPB in May 2019, my involvement in the Starlings and the wider Equality, Diversity and Inclusion initiative have become two of the most important and fulfilling aspects of my job. The Starlings make me feel part of a bigger picture at work, a movement towards greater inclusion and diversity at the RSPB. It’s so rewarding to be able to be myself at work, to be honest and open about my sexual orientation, and to work alongside such a passionate and welcoming group of people from my community.”
“I had planned to attend Pride in person this year for the first time. Unfortunately, due to the Covid situation I was unable to do this, but I was so pleased to be able to share Global Pride 2020 virtually with some of the other members of the Starlings! Singer / songwriter Calum Scott performed his song ‘No Matter What’, which struck a chord with me due to its emotive narrative of Calum’s parents’ acceptance of his homosexuality. Although I have to say that my favourite part of Global Pride was dancing to the Village People’s performance of their iconic track ‘YMCA’ at the end of the Main Stage show – the fact that our streaming devices appeared to be out of synch with each other made for a slightly haphazard but highly amusing crescendo to my first ever Pride! I can’t wait to attend Pride 2021 with the Starlings in person next year!”
Another member of the Starlings said, “Having been at the RSPB since late summer 2015, I joined the Starlings in early 2019 after finding their Yammer group. The Starlings are so lovely, friendly, welcoming; I am so glad to be part this group! The Starlings make me feel that the RSPB is really working towards greater equality, diversity and inclusion.”
“I attended my first Pride with them last year, which was an amazing experience! Due to the Covid situation Prides have been cancelled this year; however Global pride gave us the opportunity to meet over Microsoft Teams and enjoy the show together. I’m looking forward to attending Pride 2021 with the Starlings!“
“For Global Pride 2020, The Starlings ‘turned up’ in true Pride spirit wearing their Pride t-shirts (including the RSPB ‘Love Your Nature’ shirts) and various colourful make-up and glitter combinations and watched the Main Stage Pride show together over Microsoft Teams. There were some great performances and shout outs from the likes of Olivia Newton John, Adam Lambert and Natasha Bedingfield. The Starlings also tuned back in for the evening session where they were graced with the wise words of Stephen Fry and shout outs from Charlotte Church and Holly Willoughby.”
“With showcases and inspirational stories from around the world of different Prides, highlighting that Pride is both a celebration and a protest and that not all countries have equal rights, it was amazing to see all these different people from around the world coming together for Global Pride 2020.”
Another observation was “Over the last two years, it has been amazing to participate in the RSPB’s attendance at Pride events across the UK and it is extremely sad that celebrations across the world have been unable to take place in 2020 due to Covid-19. It was moving, heart-warming, fun yet sobering to take part in Global Pride this year virtually with my colleagues.”
“Alicia Garza, Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter, spoke on the importance of recognising intersectionality and the racism that exists within the LGBTQIA+ community. Faces were hidden and identities protected as brave testimonies were given from countries around the world where it is unsafe to outwardly express your identity as LGBTQIA+. There was also plenty of optimism too however and it was testament to the fact that, even with the many challenges we already face, and the additional ones that Covid-19 have presented to us as an already marginalised group, we still proudly exist, persist and resist (the strapline of Global Pride).”
Unfortunately you can’t rewatch Global Pride, but Bi Pride UK’s BiFi festival (which took place on 20 June) is still available at twitch.tv/BIPRIDEUK. The panel discussions in the first half are excellent and cover issues like ‘Bi BAME empowerment’ and ‘lockdown and mental health’. This is followed by a cabaret and music section (the performance by Nalu is stunning!) and a cracking after party DJ set and disco.
Also, do check out #PrideInside on Twitter and Instagram. It’s a digital Pride celebration running from 2 – 5 July in collaboration with UK Black Pride, Amnesty International, Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence and ParaPride.
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